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International Relations, PUBLICATIONS

EU support for human rights defenders around the world

Written by Ionel Zamfir,

Man holding cardboard paper with HUMAN RIGHTS title, conceptual image

© igor / Fotolia

Twenty years after the UN General Assembly adopted its Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) to enhance recognition of their role and encourage states to create a more protective environment, many human rights defenders still face significant threats, and the situation of those working in certain areas has even deteriorated.

Support for human rights defenders is a long established component of the EU’s external human rights policy and one of its major priorities. The EU guidelines on HRDs adopted in 2004 outline concrete measures for protecting HRDs at risk, including the provision of emergency aid, and encourage EU diplomats to take a more proactive approach towards HRDs. The European Commission manages a financial instrument in support of HRDs working in the world’s most dangerous situations.

The European Parliament is a long-standing advocate of a comprehensive EU policy on HRDs and has actively contributed to its shaping. Its urgency resolutions on human rights breaches around the world, some of which have focused on individual HRDs and the particular threats they face, have drawn attention to the difficulties facing HRDs in many countries. Parliament has also organised hearings with HRDs, issued statements about cases of HRDs at risk, and highlighted the plight of HRDs during visits by its delegations to the countries concerned. The Parliament’s Sakharov Prize is the EU’s most visible action in favour of HRDs. It has a significant impact on laureates, providing them with recognition and, in many cases, indirect protection.

This a further updated version of a briefing from December 2017: PE 614.626.

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU support for human rights defenders around the world‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.



  1. Pingback: EU support for human rights defenders around the world | - November 12, 2018

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